Ancient Celebrations – Part 2 – Calan Gaeaf

Whilst we are familiar with Samhain, which originates in Ireland and Scotland, we should also acknowledge Calan Gaeaf, an ancient Welsh celebration with lots of similarities with Samhain and Halloween.

Calan Gaeaf is the name of the first day of winter in Wales, observed on 1 November. The night before is Noson Galan Gaeaf, an Ysbrydnos (English – Spirit Night) when spirits are abroad.

Children building a Coelcerth

During Calan Gaeaf, children and women would dance around a village fire (Coelcerth) and everyone would write their names on rocks and place them in and around said fire. When the fire started to die out they would all run home, believing if they stayed, Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta (the tailless black sow) would devour their souls.

The following morning, all the stones would be checked. If a stone was missing, the person who wrote their name on the absent stone would be believed to die within one year.

Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta

Adref, adref, am y cyntaf’,
Hwch ddu gwta a gipio’r ola’.

Home, home, at once
The tailless black sow shall snatch the last.

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